How Sincere Leaders Sabotage Their Organizations

You are engaged in harmful behaviors that don’t serve you or your organization well. “I meant well,” points to sincere behaviors that backfired.

Success is doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.


The CIA declassified the “Simple Sabotage Field Manual” in the 70’s. Page 29 reads like a how-to for succeeding in fear-filled organizations. Effective saboteurs look like they’re doing the right thing. 

The most dangerous wrong is the one that feels right.

8 sabotage techniques that could be “good” leadership:

  1. Sabotage by obedience. Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
  2. Sabotage by speech. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length.
  3. Sabotage by committee. When possible, refer all matters to committee, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committee as large as possible – never smaller than five.
  4. Sabotage by irrelevant issues. Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
  5. Sabotage by haggling. Haggle over the precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
  6. Sabotage by reopening decisions. Refer back to matters decided at the last meeting and question the advisability of that decision.
  7. Sabotage by excessive caution. Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassment or difficulties later on.
  8. Sabotage by is-it-really-our-call? Be worried about the propriety of any decision – raise the question whether any action lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with some policy of a higher echelon.

These behaviors could be useful. That’s what makes them dangerous.

Sincere passion is frustrating apart from effective execution. Leadership development is aligning sincere passion with effective behavior.

*This post is based on the book, “Simple Sabotage” by Robert M. Galford, Bob Frisch, & Cary Greene. It’s a great read. Buy it on Amazon.

What “good” behaviors could be harmful to organizations?